A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: urchinjoe

The end

Back in Reykjavik and the UK

Returned to Reykjavik to buy a small puffin and other bits and pieces, and to take in a couple of museums. Also to spend one night in relative luxury at the Radisson SAS Saga hotel, which has a spa, which is why we booked it. We've been looking forward to a soak for a few days now.

Went to the flea market in the morning where I sampled Hakarl (it tastes a little like blue cheese), and then ate a hotdog at Icelands most famous hotdog stand, formerly used by none other than Bill Clinton. High praise indeed. I'd say the hotdog was OK, but not noticably better than any other. Then holed up in a bookshop and cafe for a couple of hours. At three pm, visited The Volcano Show at Red Rock Cinema... it was nothing like I pictured it to be, and is well worth a visit. Run by a fairly crazy old guy who has built a cinema in his shed, and chases volcanos for a living / hobby (unclear), he also stars in the movie - which will be cut short if he has to leave to film a new eruption. Awesome and inspiring.

Then to the hotel. We were unceremoniously told that the spa was closed on Sundays. Of course. So we could use it for an hour or so when it opened at 8am the following day. Disappointed, we went out to the Icebar - good fun and very blue in photos - before eating dinner in the attached restaurant. I had fish (galore). Back to the hotel. Arose at 7.30 and went to the spa. It had opened at 7am. The lady at check in at the spa was unhelpful, offering us (compulsory) slippers, but phrasing it as optional, and then blankly staring at me when I said I was a size 50 (European shoe size), and waiting until I selected, at random, a lower number, rather than telling me what their largest flip flop size actually was. The spa was pretty good once inside, all Egyptian and with a window in the ceiling. Finally, visited the Reykjavik +/- 1 or 2 (or similar name) museum, which was a great example of technology in museums, including one excellent interactive and several other good digital displays. And one large archaelogical find.

And now we're back in the UK.

Posted by urchinjoe 00:47 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Circles

...as the holiday draws to a close.

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Drove, via Godafoss (small but pretty and historical) Akureyri, a town of 16,000 people, seemed like the most extensive and busy metropolis in the world after the North-East coast. We visited several churches, all with their own unique charms, including one in a valley to the South of town with a turf roof (the church, not the valley). Finally got medicine for illnesses. Left. Drove 400 km, calling in at Blonduos (church like a volcano, interesting but small), and detouring to an invisible troll rock (or maybe we just couldn't find it), and Reykholt (Snorri's pool: world's first hot-tub) and Barnafoss / Hraunfossar (great waterfalls). Then to Borganes where we were accosted by the world's friendlies but most in your face Danes. They didn't even let us put our bags in the room before they started quizzing us on the common market, singing the praises of Iceland and recommending sights in Reykjavik (we went). Slept. Woke.

Visited Borg, a large rock and sight of Egil's saga, then went to the settlement centre (nice museum, some great little displays but very confusing staff and headphones system that spoils the pacing somewhat. I enjoyed it though, especially downstairs. Then we did the Golden Circle: Thingvellir, a lake and nature reserve on the mid Atlantic rift, interesting cliffs and gorges as a result, and the birthplace of democracy: the Althing and Law Rock. Historical. From there we drove down the WORST ROAD IN ICELAND to Laugervatn, and on to Geysir, the original geyser, now sadly broken, but made up for by its smaller cousin. It was fun. He bubbles. Finally, Gullfoss. Although I was sceptical, this was actually the best waterfall of the holiday, and possibly in Iceland (certainly the most famous). Ate many posh foods. Slept.

Awoke and drove South to the ghost centre at Stokesteri (spelling?) and listened to ghost stories while a boy in a hood made Laura scream and tweaked my nose. Brilliant, and a testement to the power of imagination and old warehouses. Then finished the real circle, driving North into Reykjavik, where we looked at the original manuscripts of the sagas, sorted out a discount on our car for an early return, and checked into our penultimate sleeping quarters - Reykjavik HI hostel, one of the best hostel's I've ever been to. Good work. Tomorrow is our final day, then home and back to the drawing board.

Posted by urchinjoe 11:34 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Adverse weather conditions

Rain, wind, sulphuric steam, bitter cold and a layer of snow too deep to drive through.

all seasons in one day

From Egilstadir we drove north to Husey, which, when you include ourselves, the two Germans in the room below ours, and the population of the community, calls itself home to about ten people. The road to Husey is long and bumpy, and winds through some of the most homely landscape we have seen in Iceland: green fields, and a turf roofed house, hemmed in by two long mountain ridges; the road follows a river which allegedly houses seals. The hostel is blue, guarded by dogs (friendly), and is an old farmhouse, full of bright paint, many rooms, a sitting room with comfy chairs and a kitchen. There are at least two shower rooms. The house was cold when we visited, but radiators helped. It is also full of seal skins, crabs (ornamental), and other similar things. Checking in and out could have been streamlined with the addition of a reception desk / working doorbell. We spent the evening playing chess and exchanging tips with the two Germans (Nikolai and Sarah) who had done the circle and missed their boat. They gave us stuff for the tyres to kill snow, and advised us that the road to Dettifoss was getting hairy. Next day we rose early, looked for seals (none there) and drove on.

We decided to see Modradalur, Icelands highest farm, on the way to our next point, Thorshofn (├×orshofn), which is the gateway to a peninsular that looks like a duck. The road to Modradalur was terrible, and on occasion looked impassible, but careful driving got us through. The farm was closed for the season, and we went without the hearty soup we had craved. Onwards to Thorshofn. We ate in a petrol station - I had lamb schnitzel - and enjoyed pretty scenery. Arrived in town and joyously found a pharmacy - which was closed - and a restaurant, which was open, though food was excessively creamy. We have found Iceland to be generally closed, and have consequently planned a return south to where it might be open soon. Had a bath in a hotpot, and watched the northern lights, which again danced slowly and subtely across the sky. Hostel, clean, new, full of welcoming bones and does a great farmhouse-like breakfast.

Morning saw us check out some abandoned farmhouses before hitting town, photographing ham, and leaving. Went to drive the shortest route to Myvatn, but rapidly found our road blocked by snow, which we both tried to drive through, and failed. Luckily neither got stuck nor slid off road. Went the long way round, and saw Icland's most northerly point (2.5km below arctic), and some scary scarecrows. Road to Dettifoss also blocked, so went via Husavik - home to the famous phallalogical museum, closed, but with an impressive facade. Continued to Myvatn where we took a "nature bath" hot, cold, outdoors, similar to Blue Lagoon but less finished and otherworldly, and more extreme in temperature.

Following day we found Dettifoss still inaccessible, so popped up the road to Hverir - ugly, alien, stinking and fascinating volcanic field, and Krafla - much the same, but bigger. I nearly fell in a hidden crevice. We left soon after. The weather was bloody awful and we sulked greatly, this would have better suited a summer day I think. But we went on to Dimmuborgir, the "dark castles" home to trolls and their children, and namesake of a Norwegian metal band. It was pretty amazing, canyons and formation made of cooled lava, and we spent over an hour their. Went home to get ready to eat, but found all restaurants closed (bloody annoying), so, we're heading back towards Reykjavik a little swifter than planned - its getting old that we have to eat nothing but frazzles and chocolate every day, and that hot dogs are a luxury. We will therefore not get to Europes westernmost point, nor to a glacier beloved of Jules Verne. In exchange, we plan to visit many other attractions, including a rock, a hole, and some ghosts. So lets see if we make it.

Posted by urchinjoe 13:57 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The South-East of Iceland

A symphony in Blue, Turquoise and Green

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We left Reykjavik in our hire-car, which is pale green and has five doors, two nights ago, to visit the Blue Lagoon. ITs a hot, salty, silty, muddy and surreal place, the by-prouct of geothermal power. The water is milky blue and one cannot see through it, and there are spa treatments including a faceful of mud and sitting in a hot sauna. It was really great.

From there we drove on an interminably long short-cut, unpaved road, full of gravel. This took hours. Eventually we got back on the main road, route 1, the circle, and headed to Vik. It was dark when we arrived and we went almost immediately to sleep. The following day it was snowy. We waded down to the beach and looked at the sea stacks, then asked advice on the road ahead. "No problem". True enough, we drove through a white, alien landscape for many hours, until we came to the flood plains at the glacial feet of Vatnajokul. Saw glaciers galore. Then continued to Jokusarlon, where a glacier touches a lagoon and myriad turquoise icebergs float sleepily around. The shore is covered in ice cubes and there are, as Laura will tell you, seals. COntinued to Hofn where we ate burgers and saw the Aurora Borealis - it was subtle, a glowing green curtain that gently shifted shape and size, arcing across the sky. We had to run tot he beach to see it properly.

Today we drove to Egilstadir, where we used the internet. Reaching here required use of a high snowy mountain dirt track - or the circle, route one, as they call it round here. Now I must go.

Posted by urchinjoe 08:53 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Arriving in Reykjavik

Freezing cold weather, a small town and an Opel Corsa

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I got my dissertation finished, drove to Essex, met Laura's parents and flew to Reykjavik in the last couple of days. We arrived here yesterday, checked into Baldursbra guest-house, and slept immediately. Then explored Reykjavik. Its a very small capital city - understandable in a country with fewer inhabitants than Newcastle - and we got to see quite a lot of it. The church is huge, concrete, and closed, but the sun voyager sculpture is very good. Then we ate - our target restaurant was closed, so ate in cafe Paris. Lamb soup for me, trout salad for Laura. Waffles and Crepes to follow. Went home, and again slept.

Awoke and broke fast, ate fantastic paprika cheese and strange pancakes. Planned a day of galleries and museums. Saw a video installation critiquing Islamic society in Iran... very disturbing. Then a viking history exhibition, which was great fun, full of recreated vikings and gory stories. Ate a ham salad sandwich, and a cake. Then we wandered into town and looked around, and found this here internet cafe, which sells nice cakes and tea and is very atmospherically pleasant, and snug. It is insanely cold here, so much more than expected. So tonight we intend saunas and hot-tubs to rule the day.

Tomorrow we collect a hire car, which we will use to drive around 'the circle', Iceland's famous ring-road. This will take a while, and there's lots to see on the way. I really like it here.

Posted by urchinjoe 10:13 Archived in Iceland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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